Roller Skating in Movies

Roller skating became extremely popular during the 1970s with many movies using it as a basis for their plots. Roller skating was featured in films decades before it became popular and has also been featured in more modern movies since. Below are some examples of great movies that employ roller skating in some form or another.

Charlie Chaplin in: The Rink

Charlie Chaplin was an iconic English actor and filmmaker born in 16th April 1889. He became well known during the silent film era and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of film. During the height of the silent movie era Charlie Chaplin released this 1916 movie, his eighth film for Mutual films entitled The Rink. Co-starring Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell, Henry Bergman and Albert Austin, The Rink saw the slapstick star play a clumsy and inept waiter at a restaurant – who happens to have exceptional roller-skating skills.

During one scene Charlie saves a girl being hassled by a customer called Mr Stout. This swiftly turns into a slapdash and highly comical fight that showcased some of Charlies’ skating skills – which was a huge delight for many audiences at the time.

Charlie Chaplin in: The Rink
Charlie Chaplin in: The Rink

Boogie Nights

Produced and directed by Paul Thomas S Anderson, Boogie Nights features an ensemble cast of 90s greats including Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Heather Graham and Don Cheadle. The movie primarily focuses on the porn industry in the 70s and 80s. However, is also a more general commentary on spirit of the decades themselves, depicting the decay of American morality and the cultural obsessions of the time – such as roller skating.

Brandy, played by Heather Graham, loves roller disco so much she never takes her skates off. She even refuses to do so during intimate moments which earnt her the nickname Rollergirl. Boogie Nights was met with a good reception from critics. They cited the strong characters subtle storytelling and bold themes. The film was also a breakout role for Mark Wahlberg and has a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 70 reviews.

Skatetown USA

Directed by William A. Larvey, this nostalgic American comedy film was released in 1979. It was largely conceived to capitalise on the huge popularity of roller discos at the time. The film features many television stars from the 1960s and 1970s – among them are Flip Wilson, Scott Baio, Ron Palillo and Ruth Buzzi. Patrick Swayze was the lead star in the film playing a skater called Ace. This was the seminal 80’s heartthrob’s first leading role movie performance.

The film is primarily set at a roller disco called Skatetown USA and sees Ace go up against his rival in a skating competition where the prize is $100 and a moped. Ace and his enemy play a game of chicken on motorised roller skates to during the finale. Whilst it wasn’t a critical success at the time of release, apart from Patrick Swayze’s skating and screen presence, it has since gained a cult following and is considered an important movie of the 1970s.

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